Tuesday, June 28, 2016
The Blitz Next Door by Cathy Forde
But no sooner do Pete and his football-figure collection get to the shelter, then he is confronted by Dunny, who claims the shelter is his. After a brief showdown, the two boys bond over the football figures and in no time, Pete had a new best mate. Everything seems to be going well - the house comes with his dad's new job, his dad's boss, Jamie Milligan, loves old rock and rock music as much as Pete does, and he doesn't have to start a new school until after the Easter holiday. If only the girl next door would stop crying and who is the creepy old lady that is always standing at the bomb crater and doesn't seem to see or hear anyone?
Little by little, with the help of Dunny, Mr. Milligan and his mum, Pete begins to unravel the mystery of the crying girl next door. No one who has lived in this area in Clydebank seems surprised when they discover that Pete can hear her. He learns from them that her name is Beth and she lived next door during the war. On the night of the Clydebank Blitz, Beth was in the Anderson shelter when the bomb hit her side of the house and destroyed it. A box of treasured items, including her mother's wedding photo got lost in the rubble. Beth's mother was killed in the blitz and she and her father migrated to New Zealand in the 1950s.
Beth is an old woman now, and all she wants is to see the photo of her mother once more, the one in her lost box. On the anniversary of the Clydebank Blitz, the Anderson shelter becomes a portal that takes Pete back to that terrifying night. Can he help Beth find her treasure box in the past, so she can die in peace in the present?
The Blitz Next Door is a nice blending of real events with realistic fiction and fantasy. The story is told in the third person, from Pete's perspective. He is a clever, sensitive boy, good to both his sister and the girl next door, for all their crying, and brave enough to take risks to help Beth. The other characters, especially Dunny and Mr. Milligan are also well developed with definite personalities, even Jamie Milligan and Dunny's younger brother Wee Stookie are solid and believable, though Pete's mum and dad as minor characters never really evolve.
The Clydebank Blitz was, indeed, a real event, and happened over the course of two nights, March 13 and 14, 1941. A total of 560 Luftwaffe bombed the city because of its munitions factories and shipyards, 578 people were killed and many, like Beth, lost their homes. The Blitz Next Door is a basically a contemporary story and you may wonder, as I did, if there would still be a bomb crater from WWII. I didn't find one specific to Clydebank, but there actually are still some craters in the area.
This is a story set in Scotland and there is some amount of British slang used. It won't take long to figure out that footy is soccer, that a stookie is a plaster cast, and that bally doesn't what it sounds like it should mean. It is actually a substitute for saying ?bloody" which at one time was considered to be an expletive, but isn't really, anymore.
The Blitz Next Door is a compelling story that should appeal to readers who like a mystery and time travel stirred into their contemporary adventure stories, and that explores themes about friendship, family, courage. This would pair nicely with A Shirtful of Frogs by Shalini Boland.
This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley